In Georgia, foster care reunification is a crucial goal, with approximately 62 percent of children in foster care being successfully reunited with their birth families in 2021. When individuals become foster parents, their primary objective is to facilitate the reunification process for the families in need. Although it can be challenging for foster parents to let go after forming strong bonds with their foster children, they receive extensive support from the foster care community throughout the reunification journey.
Children enter foster care due to various crisis situations within their families. Foster parents understand the reasons behind their placement and often desire a permanent home for the child. To prepare for reunification, foster parents need to comprehend why it is the primary goal in many foster care situations.
Preventing Additional Childhood Trauma
The initial placement of children in foster care occurs when their birth parents’ homes are deemed unsuitable for their well-being. The state’s approach in Georgia is to reunite parents and children unless adoption is the intended outcome. Parents are provided with a plan by the state, which they must follow to regain custody of their child. Before reunification, the state conducts assessments to ensure the parents’ home is safe. Avoiding permanent separation is crucial, as it can lead to additional trauma, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is in the best interest of the child to return to their parents when it becomes safe to do so.
Reassuring the Child
Foster parents may have concerns about reunification if they have taken in a child from an unsafe home environment. The child’s safety is paramount to foster parents, but they should acknowledge that the state has provided the birth parents with a clear path to regain custody. For example, if a parent struggled with substance abuse, they might need to demonstrate and maintain sobriety. While there may be skepticism about the parent’s ability to remain sober, it’s important to recognize their progress and celebrate it. Reunification, when possible, is considered the best scenario because it allows children to witness their parents’ efforts to improve and instills confidence in their love.
Circumventing Feelings of Being Unwanted
Foster parents should be mindful of children who fear they are unwanted, even if the child doesn’t openly express these feelings. The absence of birth parents in a child’s life can create a perception of being unwanted, particularly among teenagers and older children. Reunification can help address this issue, as parents working on themselves to regain custody can provide a better long-term outcome for the child.
Preventing Switches in Home Environments
Foster children often experience frequent moves within the foster care system, which can be traumatic and create a sense of instability. Reasons for these moves range from unsuitable initial placements to foster parents lacking the necessary skills to address the child’s emotional or medical needs. In some cases, siblings may be separated initially, but if a home becomes available that can accommodate all of them, the state will relocate them together. Returning to the home of their biological parents eliminates the need for further moves and provides the child with a permanent place to stay.
Positive Impact on the Parents
A common misconception is that birth parents involved in the foster care system are inherently bad people. However, many parents struggle with challenges such as addiction or financial instability, which may lead to their children being placed in out-of-home care. By becoming foster parents, individuals offer birth parents an opportunity to address their challenges and regain their child’s custody. This accountability often motivates parents to make positive changes and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Foster parents play a crucial role in fostering reunification and enabling a future where parents and children can thrive. Building relationships between foster parents and birth parents is encouraged to minimize the trauma experienced by children.
For individuals caring for a child in foster care in Georgia, it is essential to understand the potential benefits of reunification. While transitioning between homes can be challenging for children, reunification offers them an opportunity to reconnect with their birth parents and heal from the trauma. At Wellroot Family Services, our mission is to restore children and families from trauma through Jesus Christ. To learn more about our programs and how you can support families in need, visit Wellroot.org.